“Health Literacy has been defined as the cognitive and social skills which determine the motivation and ability of individuals to gain access to, understand and use information in ways which promote and maintain good health. Health Literacy means more than being able to read pamphlets and successfully make appointments. By improving people’s access to health information and their capacity to use it effectively, health literacy is critical to empowerment.” – World Health Organization.

HCCA has more than thirty years of experience in increasing consumer access to information about the health system. With the increasing complexity of our health system, it has become even more important for consumers to have access to opportunities to develop their knowledge of the health system. It is also important that these opportunities are ‘consumer-led’, that is, that they provide access to information that consumers themselves have said they need to know.

Our Health Literacy Program provides assistance to a broad range of people in the community including those people living with disadvantage. Through our Health Literacy Program we promote consumer participation in the health system by providing opportunities for consumers to improve their knowledge of support, community and health services. We work to increase consumers’ ability to advocate for themselves and family in health contexts. This involved helping consumers to identify their own needs so that they would be able to interact more effectively with health professionals.

As stated as in Goal 3 of HCCA’s Strategic Plan 2018-2021, HCCA commits to achieving: High levels of health literacy in the Canberra Community.

We do this through, continuing to identify health literacy needs in our community, and working with health services to develop resources to meet consumer needs. Health Literacy is a focus throughout all of our activities including Consumer representative Program, policy work, communications, including social media and the important work of our Multicultural Liaison Officer (Yelin Hung). It also includes our community awareness program on Advanced Care Planning.

All of HCCA’s health literacy work is underpinned by the HCCA Health Literacy Position Statement – PDF


The Community Health Literacy Project (2019-2021)

HCCA has begun a new project that supports health people to build their health literacy knowledge, skills and confidence so they better navigate our health system. Work on the Community Health Literacy Project began in November 2019 and will end in December 2021. This project is supported by the ACT Health Directorate.

The project will:

  • Work with the ACT Health Directorate to finalise and implement the first ACT Health Literacy Framework.
  • Establish a Health Literacy Network to provide education and development opportunities for professionals and volunteers working in health care and community services.
  • Develop, pilot and deliver health literacy training for staff and volunteers of community services.
  • Establish and maintain an online resource to support health literacy among consumers, health professionals and community services, with a focus on patient safety and self-management of chronic conditions.
  • Research what helps people to self-manage one or more long-term condition, and the health literacy issues affecting culturally and linguistically diverse communities in the ACT.

The need for these projects were identified through research and consultation that HCCA undertook in 2019.

The Project is overseen by a Steering Group that brings together people with consumer, clinical, health service management and health policy expertise to advise on all aspects of the project. This includes consumer representatives as representatives of:

  • ACT Health Directorate
  • ACT Office of Mental Health and Wellbeing
  • Calvary Public Hospital Bruce
  • Canberra Health Service
  • Capital Health Network
  • Carers’ ACT
  • Health Care Consumers’ Association


The Community Health Literacy Steering Group, November 2019: Purity Goj, Karin Calford, Belinda Yates, Shelley McInnis, Sarah Spiller, Jessica Lamb, Kate Gorman, Anais le Gall, Emma Awizen

The Community Health Literacy Steering Group, November 2019: Purity Goj, Karin Calford, Belinda Yates, Shelley McInnis, Sarah Spiller, Jessica Lamb, Kate Gorman, Anais le Gall and Emma Awizen


From time to time there are opportunities for consumers to be involved in the project in different ways. If you would like to know more, please subscribe to HCCA’s newsletter Consumer Bites here, or contact Sarah Spiller or Jessica Lamb at HCCA on 02 6230 7800 or via [email protected].


Community Health Literacy in the ACT – Environmental Scan

This report shares learning from an environmental scan of community health literacy strengths, barriers and existing initiatives in the ACT. It identifies key opportunities to strengthen the ACT’s response to health literacy. HCCA undertook the scan in 2019 with support from the ACT Health Directorate.

Read the summary of findings here.

Read the full report here.


Last updated: 13/5/2020